Devaki Jain – India

Linked with The Singamma Sreenivasan Foundation – India.

She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.

Read also on wikipedia.

Devaki Jain is a pioneer in the field of women’s studies in India, and an institution-builder who combines an academic vision with practical, even marketing, wisdom.

Devaki Jain - India three.jpg

Devaki Jain – India.

She works for the Singamma Sreenivasan Foundation.

Devaki Jain (born 1933) is a pioneer in the field of women’s studies in India and an institution-builder who combines vision with practical wisdom. She is also a grassroots worker, despite a heavy schedule of national and international commitments. Apart from her academic work, Devaki has been involved in marketing products generated by rural women and training these women to market medicinal herbal plants.

Graduating as an economist, Devaki Jain (born 1933) decided to focus on studying the role of women in development, which became the bedrock of her career. An economics lecturer at a women’s college, Devaki was invited by the Indian government to bring out a perceptive and comprehensive book on Indian women for the first UN conference on women in 1975. The choice fell on her because she had just published an article in the journal Seminar, challenging stereotypes from Hindu mythology of women known for their unqualified devotion to men, and offering, from the same historical archives, examples of other women who had deviated from being role models. In the course of her work on the book, Devaki’s understanding of Indian women deepened. She displayed long a remarkable capacity to network between diverse groups of people. At a time when other scholars in her field were busy plowing their lonely furrows, she recognized the value of interaction, both for the sharing of knowledge and experience and to mount collective action. This talent bore fruit when, in 1980, Devaki founded the Institute of Social Studies Trust (ISST) to initiate and coordinate research and analyses on women’s issues.

Devaki helped the ISST engage in research for advocacy, choosing as its entry point a theme that was to command serious attention and the engagement of development institutions and scholars the world over – “Time”. A six-village time allocation study of men and women in rural households was conducted from 1975-77. The study revealed that amongst the poor, the work participation rate of women was greater than that of men; that children, especially girl-children between the age of eight and 12, were engaged in significant economic activity. The study not only put the spotlight on the invisibility of women workers, it also made inroads into how to change the methodology of surveys to make the invisibility visible, so to speak. The ISST went on to develop the thesis that it was remunerated work that was the first need of impoverished women. Under Devaki’s leadership, it began to investigate how this goal could be reached.

Under Devaki’s guidance of the ISST until 1995, the organization identified clusters of women who were already engaged in particular occupations, and aimed to expand that space. This led to the birth of Mahila Haat, a market-facilitating window for women producers. The idea was to start with the traditional haats (markets) as viable places where trade turnover was greater than the modern markets, and where women often sold out what they produced, since the idea of what was to be produced came from the marketplace itself. Along the way, Devaki also enabled the birth of many other new organizations. She provided support to a proposal for setting up a women’s publishing house as well as the development of many self-employed women’s organizations. Her most daring idea, however, was to mobilize women to challenge the then sacred development paradigm. She helped found DAWN – Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era – a network of Third World women engaged in development concerns.

She also worked as a family counselor. Recently, she has been focusing her energies on training rural women to cultivate and market medicinal herbal plants. In the past few years, she has devoted herself to building up the Singamma Sreenivasan Foundation in Karnataka, where she currently lives. The Foundation began by exploring alternative agricultural strategies that benefit women but has gradually moved on to work on a wider canvass of women-related issues. Devaki’s interests continue to take her all over India and abroad. Her contribution was handsomely recognized by the UN in 1995 when she was one of two women awarded the Bradford Morse Memorial Award at the World Conference at Beijing “for outstanding achievements through professional and voluntary activities in promoting the advancement of women and gender equality for 20 years”.

Devaki’s expertise has also been drawn upon by other international agencies. In 2002, she was invited to preside over the launch of the Report of Human Development in South Asia 2002 called Agriculture and Rural Development by the Islamabad-based Mahbub ul Haq Human Development Centre. The same year, the World Bank invited her to its Workshop on Poverty Monitoring and Evaluation in India.

At home, Devaki has been actively involved with government forums and civil society initiatives on issues of equity, development, self-government, and population. She has been a member of many policy- and program-designing task forces, and of working groups set up by the Government of India with special reference to women’ s economic empowerment. She was invited by the Ministry of Rural Development to help design credit programs for rural women. She was also a member of the Core Committee that set up the National Women’s Resource Center by the Ministry of Human Resource Development. At the Central Planning Commission, she has been a member of the group established to draft the Women’s Development Chapter. She was adviser and convener of the Expert Group on Economic Affairs at the National Commission for Women (1996-97). As a scholar, Devaki has promoted women’s studies through in-depth research and critical analyses. As an activist, she has encouraged appropriate policy interventions. And she has been an advocate of change through her writings in the media, speeches, and publications. As a result of her work, public awareness has been enhanced, and policymakers as well as implementing agencies have been sensitized to gender issues. Moreover, an entire generation of women’s rights workers and activists has been inspired and influenced by Devaki’s work and their interaction with her. Like many working women, Devaki has had to overcome male prejudices and patronizing attitudes. But she has had the crucial support of her father and brother. Difficult as it is, she has found a balance between her personal and professional life. (Read this on 1000peacewomen).

See her complete CV here.

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